I grew up in a working-class neighborhood with my four siblings, factory laborer father, and stay-at-home mother. My upbringing instilled in me a solid work ethic and a never-take-anything-for-granted mentality.
From my father, I learned responsibility. You work hard and long (12-hour days six to seven days a week), even if your work is sucking the life blood from your veins. It’s the right thing to do when you have a family. You have no choice.
From my mother, I saw hard work. She was always home cooking, cleaning, gardening, and raising kids. She did everything. I also learned honesty and the power of words from her. In her house, I didn’t fear the punishment for sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night as much as I feared the punishment for lying about it. Her brand of torture was hours-long lectures–with quizzes at the end.
But I also learned about self-deprecating humor and body insecurity from her. She clearly thought she was ugly and fat. My father often took the cues from her to deal low blows that reinforced that poor self-image. She gave him the lead, and he took it.
So, I grew up thinking that my power came from my mind, my intellect, and my words. Outer beauty was not as important as inner beauty and strength. I’ve patterned my life on those seeds planted and harvested so long ago.
That’s why, when my father now remarks, “You look in great shape!”, I knee-jerk reply,
“For a fifty-seven-year-old.”
Or when I’m told, “You have long eyelashes,” I counter
In both cases, the reply could simply be “thank you.” But that would imply that I accept the compliments as true. It’s easier to rely on what’s ingrained in me–to suspect the praiser as blowing smoke or mistaken. I’ve adapted my mother’s disbelief in owning physical beauty.
Hard-wired beliefs are hard to shake.
My quest for the last few decades has been to perfect inner beauty with kindness, compassion, good thoughts, and service. As a teacher, writer, lawyer, coach, and volunteer, I’ve grown wisdom–a little bit. I’m inclined to forgive and accept people–just as people.
Have I afforded myself the same? Somewhat, yes.
What does this have to do with beauty?
Here I am, able to choose a new path as my children grow up and out on their own and my parents settle into their growing old and away. New beginnings from endings. I chose skincare products. Huh?
Have I turned desperate or superficial in my older age? No, that’s just defensive judgmental shit talking. I’ve tried to be okay with the ravages of time in my face that I failed to protect and love all these years. Mostly, I am, but some days, the mirror bums me out.
Why not look and feel better if you can? If a product works–any product–I’m all about singing its praises. And better still, if it works for others, I’m doubly all over it. Because then I get to share with others something that makes me happy.
This is the challenge and hope for me–to improve my skin. I want to look better, fresher, brighter, and younger. Most importantly, I don’t want to feel guilty or self-judging about those desires.
But the greatest outcome would be to watch others transform. That appeals to both my loving heart and my scientific mind.
Do you ever feel guilty for wanting to look more beautiful? Or is it just me?